Nord Stream 2 Deal

Jackson Janes

President Emeritus of AGI

Jackson Janes is the President Emeritus of the American-German Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and is Honorary President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics .

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and American Purpose. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, and the Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS). He serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.


Steve Szabo

Stephen F. Szabo

Senior Fellow

Dr. Stephen F. Szabo is a Senior Fellow at AICGS, where he focuses on German foreign and security policies and the new German role in Europe and beyond. Until June 1, he was the Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy, a Washington, DC, based forum for research and dialogue between scholars, policy experts, and authors from both sides of the Atlantic. Prior to joining the German Marshall Fund in 2007, Dr. Szabo was Interim Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and taught European Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He served as Professor of National Security Affairs at the National War College, National Defense University (1982-1990). He received his PhD in Political Science from Georgetown University and has been a fellow with the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the American Academy in Berlin, as well as serving as Research Director at AICGS. In addition to SAIS, he has taught at the Hertie School of Governance, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and the University of Virginia. He has published widely on European and German politics and foreign policies, including. The Successor Generation: International Perspectives of Postwar Europeans, The Diplomacy of German Unification, Parting Ways: The Crisis in the German-American Relationship, and Germany, Russia and the Rise of Geo-Economics.

Not a Gift to Putin but a Realistic Choice

Opposition to the Biden administration’s deal with Germany over the lifting of sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project has continued both in Washington and Europe despite Ukrainian President Zelensky’s meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Kiev last month and his recent meeting with President Biden in Washington. In both exchanges, Zelensky has voiced his discontent with Nord Stream 2. Both Merkel and Biden affirmed their commitment to Ukraine with serious offers of economic and military support without changing course on the pipeline.

This controversy is understandable, but it also reflects differing strategic and economic interests. The German government has long stressed that the deal was to secure sustainable energy resources based on reliable supply lines not only for Germans but also for Europeans, a position anchored in the alliance with Austrian, Dutch, and French companies engaged in the project. Of course, the geopolitical impact of the pipeline is apparent to those who see Russian leverage on Europe emerging as a threat with this initiative, especially among those whose histories with Russia are burdened by Cold War legacies and those who now feel threatened by the aggressive posture of Vladimir Putin.

These clashes notwithstanding, the decision by the Biden administration to recognize the fact that the pipeline is a reality makes strategic sense. Biden’s choices are about shaping the framework of confrontation not only with Russia but equally important with China in the future. The Geneva meeting between Biden and Putin following the G7 and NATO summits signaled the need to continue the dialogue despite the ongoing clashes over Ukraine. In both cases, Germany must be a strategic partner without which these policies will falter.

The criticism aimed at the Nord Stream 2 project is that it makes Europe more dependent on Russian energy and Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression. While it is true that revenues go to support the Putin system and that it deepens Russian ties to Germany, it also builds mutual interdependence between Russia and Europe. In stressing that Europe has leverage, Chancellor Merkel has argued that it is not a one-sided weapon for Russia given the high degree of Russian dependence on income from oil and gas. The volume of gas has not changed, only the supply route, which is more reliable and less subject to pressure than the Ukrainian alternative. German and American guarantees to Kiev, both economic and military, signal they are prepared to respond to Russian threats and to partially compensate for its lost revenue.

Much of the opposition in the American debate is based on the view that the pipeline is a gift to Putin as well as the assumption that the United States can and should stop the project. In fact, the pipeline may be expected to be fully operational even before the new government in Berlin takes office. Continued opposition could be more of a gift to Putin as it could deepen German resentment against policies fostered in the Trump era.  While sanctions have been the preferred tactic in Congress, that tool has a double-edged impact in that it opens the door to other players—in particular China—interested in using that same weapon as demonstrated by Chinese sanctions on Australia and Europe. Some American commentators continue to view Germany as a semi-sovereign state totally dependent on American security, not as the leading power in Europe today. And even during the Cold War, when West Germany was deploying NATO missiles against Soviet opposition, it was engaged in gas pipeline agreements with the Soviet Union despite vigorous opposition and sanctions from Washington. Even if the Green Party, having expressed its opposition to Nord Stream 2, is in the new governing coalition in Berlin, a renewal of these sanction tactics is unlikely to immediately impact the German decision. A look at the complete failure of the tactics of intimidation pursued by Trump’s ambassador Richard Grenell should be instructive in this regard.

The Biden decision, like many strategic choices, is not a pretty one, but it is realistic. Since the end of the Cold War and in the wake of Brexit, Germany is now America’s most important ally, not only in Europe. The emergence of China as a chief strategic challenge has only made it more central given Germany’s key role on China policy in the European Union. Part of that strategy will involve a balancing of relations with Moscow and Beijing with an eye on inhibiting closer relations between those two countries. That will require close collaboration between Washington and Berlin.

Germany, under a new government, will have to show that it is the partner that the Biden team thinks it is. It has to balance its economic interests with a broader strategic vision and abandon happy talk about how trade and economic ties will eventually liberalize China and Russia. The prospects that this will happen in the post-Merkel era are not clear, but her successors will need to present a strategic response to these challenges. As of now, those messages are missing among the contenders. Following the Zelensky-Biden meeting in Washington, the joint statement by the two leaders stated “Ukraine’s success is central to the global struggle between democracy and autocracy. We stand shoulder to shoulder, optimistic in our common goals to advance democracy, deliver justice, enhance prosperity, and bolster security for Ukraine.” The combined strength of both Germany and the United States will be needed to achieve them.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.